Friday, October 17, 2008

Momentum builds for scrapping Commission on Presidential Debates

Momentum builds for scrapping the Commission on Presidential Debates. Check out all of the news coverage in the last 24 hours below! And if you haven't already, join the open debates movement by signing up in the yellow box to the right ---->

POLITICO: Norquist joins debate coalition

WASH POST: Debates Are Over, But Push For More Openness Continues

TECH PRESIDENT: Across the Spectrum, Calls for Debate Reform

NATIONAL JOURNAL: Grover Norquist Joins Open Debate Coalition

OPEN DEBATE COALITION: Norquist Joins Coalition, Calls For Dismantling Debate Commission

YOUTUBE'S BLOG: Moving to a more democratic debate

CRAIG FROM CRAIGSLIST: Grover Norquist joins Open Debate Coalition?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Grover Norquist joins Open Debate Coalition

DAILY KOS Open Thread

AMERICABLOG (Progressive blog): Coalition calls for sweeping changes in future presidential debates

THE NEXT RIGHT (Right-of-center blog): Retire the Presidential Debate Commission

MyDD (Progressive blog): Changing The Debates

GOTHAMIST (New York blog): Change for Future Presidential Debates?

INFORMATION WEEK: High Praise For Schieffer Aside, Groups Still Calling For Open Debates

C-SPAN BLOG: Norquist Joins Debate Coalition

FREE PRESS: Media Minutes

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Norquist Joins Coalition, Calls For Dismantling Debate Commission

Today, Politico's Ben Smith broke some big news:
The bi-partisan group of online activists pushing to liberate debate footage from copyright restriction, and more broadly to remold presidential debates for a new age, says it will involve itself in other debates in the off-years, and gear up for 2012.

The conservative activist Grover Norquist is also joining the group, he said last night.

"I'm happy to join the Open Debate Coalition in calling for dismantling the Commission or fundamentally reforming it so it is accountable to one constituency only: the public," he said in an email. "And, if the Commission wants to show any bit of responsiveness this year, they'll make sure that debate footage is put in the public domain so people can put clips on YouTube and otherwise share key moments without being deemed copyright lawbreakers."
Norquist also tells us: "There is no excuse for the Commission imposing their will on the debates, despite the wishes of both major party candidates and a broad grassroots coalition on the right and left."

If you'd like to join our open debates movement, sign up now in the yellow box on the right of this blog, or at the bottom of this post.

We clearly have big momentum. The Commission on Presidential Debates messed up big-time by completely ignoring the will of the people, and McCain and Obama, when it came to the "open debate principles" our coalition proposed. So now, the Commission must go -- and be replaced by a debate process that's democratic, transparent, and accountable to the people.

After you sign up in the yellow box, if you'd like to urge the Commission to follow Grover Norquist's advice and make sure debate video is put in the public domain, you can email the Commission's Executive Director Janet Brown at:

Join The Open Debate movement today

Your e-mail

Your title/affiliation (Optional)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Washington Post Previews the Future

Welcome Washington Post readers! If you want to join the movement that is helping to make our presidential debates more "of the people" than ever before, just sign up at the yellow box to the right.

For those who have no idea what that's talking about, Jose Antonio Vargas -- writing at Washington Post's The Trail blog -- summarizes the Open Debate Coalition's progress and gives a preview of the future. Namely, fundamental reform of the Commission on Presidential Debates' top-down model and transition to a bottom-up model that is accountable to the public.

Last week, following the second presidential debate, a broad, bipartisan group of online thinkers and activists called the Open Debate Coalition asked McCain and Obama to help adopt the principles of "open debate." That means people should be allowed to share debate moments on YouTube and other video-sharing sites without being charged as copyright lawbreakers. It also means that bottom-up voting technology should be used to allow people to ask questions of the candidates -- taking some power away from producers and journalists and giving it to everyday voters. In short, an updated and interactive debate format that runs counter to what's been implemented by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) thus far.

To the chagrin of online activists -- including the founders of, and the heads of and -- their principles have taken a backseat. Though Obama and McCain, in letters to the coalition, agreed to the principles, the commission did not adopt them.

MoveOn's Adam Green told The Trail that "2008 will likely be the last year that the Commission on Presidential Debates will exist as we know it. In the future, voters will demand interactions with the candidates that are democratic, transparent and accountable to the public."

Andrew Rasiej, founder of Personal Democracy Forum, said: "Four years from now, the public's use of the Internet to connect with each other and organize around like-minded interests will force the candidates and the debate commission to significantly abandon the limited format of televised debates and move more of the discourse from the scarcity model constraints of TV to the limitless potential and abundance the Internet offers."

"Hopefully," Rasiej added, "comparing the 2012 debates to those of 2008 will be like comparing a 5th generation iPhone to a bullhorn."

Amen! So again, if you want to be part of the movement that makes that happen, be sure to sign up at the yellow form to the right.

If you want to help "Rate The Debates" after tonight's big debate, Free Press has a really innovative project over at (If there's one thing you check out after tonight's debate, that site would be a good one!)

There are two other sites worth checking out, both from Open Debate Coalition partners. Billy Hallowell has a new site and David Colarusso has a great bubble-up voting site at

Friday, October 10, 2008

Open Debate Coalition Asks Candidates To Follow Through By Oct. 15 Debate

Today, as reported in Politico, the Open Debate Coalition released the following letter to Senator McCain and Obama -- asking them to follow through on open debate principles in time for the October 15 debate.

Open Debate Coalition

Dear Senator McCain and Senator Obama,

Thank you for your recent letters affirming our coalition’s open debate principles, designed to make this year’s presidential debates more “of the people” than ever before. As we approach the final debate on October 15, we ask you to proactively implement such principles right away.

The closed nature of the recent debates has been universally criticized. The editors of Politico wrote, “The presidential debate commission’s rules are a scandal” resulting in “a format designed to limit improvisation, intellectual engagement, and truth-telling.” 83% of Obama supporters and 75% of McCain supporters agree that tough follow-up questions were lacking. Even Saturday Night Live spoofed the lack of follow-up questions in the debates, and the watered-down “town hall” questions chosen.

Therefore, we ask you to jointly announce the following in advance of the October 15 debate:

1) That the debate moderator has broad discretion to ask follow-up questions after a candidate’s answer, so the public can be fully informed about specific positions.

2) That after a “town hall” debate full of questions handpicked by the moderator, none of which were outside-the-box, you will allow Bob Schieffer to ask some Internet questions voted on by the public in the fashion outlined in our previous letter – which you agreed to. Existing technology will make this easy.

3) That, as a stipulation of the next debate, the media pool must release all 2008 debate footage into the public domain – as you agreed would be in the public interest. CNN, ABC, and NBC agreed to release video rights during the primary, and CBS agreed more recently. But Fox threatened Senator McCain for using a debate clip during the primary, and NBC invoked copyright law against Senator Obama to stifle political speech recently. The public deserves to know debate video can be reused without fear of breaking the law.

4) That you agree to work with the Open Debate Coalition after the election to reform or create an alternative to the Commission on Presidential Debates, so that the debate process is transparent and accountable to the public. Despite both of your agreement with the open debate principles, the Commission did nothing to implement them – or even to engage in dialogue about potential implementation. Also, the “31-page memo of understanding” with debate rules is nowhere on the Commission’s website, and has not been turned over despite requests.
The signers of this letter don’t agree on every political issue. But we do agree that in order for Americans to make the best decision for president, we need open debates that are “of the people” in the ways described above. You have the power to make that happen, and we ask you to do so.

Thank you for your willingness to take these ideas to heart. If you have any questions, please contact:


Lawrence Lessig; Professor, Stanford Law School, Founder, Center for Internet and Society
Ellen Miller; Executive Director, Sunlight Foundation
Craig Newmark; Founder, Craigslist
Jimmy Wales; Founder, Wikipedia
Aaron Swartz; Founder, Reddit
David Kralik; Director of Internet Strategy, Newt Gingrich's American Solutions
Patrick Ruffini; Republican consultant, former Republican National Committee eCampaign Director, and a blogger at
Mindy Finn; Republican strategist, former Mitt Romney Online Director, and a blogger at
Eli Pariser; Executive Director, Political Action
Adam Green; Director of Strategic Campaigns, Political Action
Mike Krempasky; Founder,
Arianna Huffington; Founder,
Markos Moulitsas; Founder,
Roger L. Simon, CEO, Pajamas Media
Eric Burns; President, Media Matters for America
K. Daniel Glover, Executive Producer, Media Research Center’s, and of AirCongress
Jon Henke; New media consultant (including for Fred Thompson, George Allen, Senate Republican Caucus) and a blogger at
Matt Stoller; Founder/Editor,
John Amato; Founder of
James Rucker; Executive Director,
Andrew Rasiej; Personal Democracy Forum and
Micah Sifry; Personal Democracy Forum and
Bill Mitchell; Professor, MIT
Josh Silver; Executive Director, Free Press
Carl Malamud; Founder, Public.Resource.Org
Clay Johnson; Director, Sunlight Labs
Robert Greenwald; President, BraveNewFilms
Kim Gandy; President, National Organization for Women
Roger Hickey; Co-Director, Campaign for America's Future
Billy Hallowell, Director of Content, VoterWatch
David Colarusso; Founder,

Join The Open Debate movement today

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Your title/affiliation (Optional)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Big News! Obama and McCain agree to Open Debate Coalition principles!

On September 25, 2008, Prof. Lawrence Lessig, the founders of Craigslist and Wikipedia, and a left-right-techie motley crew launched the Open Debate Coalition. This was an effort to bring the presidential debates into the Internet age and make them more "of the people" than ever.

There were two specific proposals: First, debate footage should be put in the public domain so that citizens can freely share it, blog about it, and put it on YouTube without fear of being deemed a copyright lawbreaker. Second, existing Internet voting technology should be used to allow voters to just just ask questions, but help select them.

Big news! Both candidates agreed with the Open Debate Coalition's principles! Read Obama's letter here and McCain's letter here.

Did any of this pass quietly into the night? Nope! Check out the big splash below!

WASHINGTON POST: Lessig (and others) Asks Candidates to Make Debates More Open
Tonight's debate is officially on -- and a group of academics, Internet pioneers and technology advocates are asking the candidates to "open up" the debates to the public rather than being "controlled by the media."
L.A. TIMES: Diverse web coalition asks McCain, Obama to alter debates
Currently, the job of designing and choosing questions is left to the media host. During the primary season some debates chose from questions submitted online, but the letter writers say those chosen were "gimmicky and not hard-hitting enough." They prefer use of bubble-up Internet technology, which they call "the essence of the internet as we know it."
NATIONAL JOURNAL: McCain, Obama Urged To Adopt 'Open Debate' Principles
The letter calls on the candidates to commit to "a principle that whenever you debate publicly, the raw footage of that debate will be dedicated to the public domain. Those in charge of the video feed should be directed to make it free for anyone to use."
BROADCASTING & CABLE: Obama, McCain Back Public Re-use Of Debate Footage
Both Barack Obama and John McCain are urging the TV networks and Presidential Debate Commission to allow debate footage to be distributed and used freely on the Internet...
CQ POLITICS: Activist Coalition Asks Candidates to Make Debates More Web-Savvy
“This cycle’s YouTube debates were a milestone for Internet participation in presidential debates,” the letter said...But the coalition complained that these debates “put too much discretion in the hands of gatekeepers,” adding, “Many of the questions chosen by TV producers were considered gimmicky and not hard-hitting enough, and never would have bubbled up on their own.”
BROADCASTING & CABLE: Group Pushes for Rights to Debate Footage; Open Debate Coalition seeks more Internet-friendly debates, rights to video footage.
A coalition of groups from both sides of the political spectrum asked the presidential candidates to pledge to hold more Internet-friendly debates, including requiring media companies to release rights to video footage.
CRAIG FROM CRAIGSLIST: Open Debate Coalition: Free the Presidential debate videos
We're experiencing a great movement towards networked, grassroots democracy, and anything citizens can do to promote that is good for the country. The Open Debate Coalition's principles mark a significant step forward in that direction.
NEWT GINGRICH'S AMERICAN SOLUTIONS: Transforming the Presidential Debates
We think we’ve found a good opportunity to bring some much needed reform and in the process once again demonstrate our tripartisan nature. We’ve teamed up with individuals on the left (including along with others on the center and the right to sign a letter to support transparency in terms of the content and questions asked during the debates.
PC WORLD (IDG NEWS): Coalition Wants Debates More Friendly to Voters, Web
A truly open debate would allow the public to select the questions, added Mindy Finn, a Republican online strategist who signed the Open Debate Coalition letter. The YouTube debates took an important step forward, "but the media still chose the questions, leaving the people out [of] the process, again," she said. "It's not enough to feign interest in the people's opinion, you have to walk the walk by giving the voters the chance to see their most important questions asked, the ones that the greatest number of people care about. Otherwise, it's a faux open debate."
CNET: Liberals, conservatives ask for Internet-friendly debates
At the "town hall" debate scheduled for October 7, the questions are already promised to be from the audience or people on the Internet--not the moderator. Even so, the debate organizers should choose the top 25 questions that "bubble up" on the Internet "to ensure that the Internet portion of this debate is true bottom-up democracy," the letter says.
WIRED: Google Launches Google Moderator For Presidential Debates
A group of plugged-in politicos recently petitioned the Commission on Presidential Debates to open up the general election debates to the public. In addition to asking that the CPD to make the video feed of the debates freely available, the group asked the commission to allow the public to select the questions to be posed to the candidates.
PC MAG: Tech Leaders, Bloggers Call for Truly Open Debates
A collection of bloggers, political activists, and other technology luminaries sent a letter to both presidential candidates on Friday asking them to make the debates truly open to the public.
GLENN REYNOLDS (INSTAPUNDIT): Just call me "Mr. Diversity"

TECH PRESIDENT: This Debate Belongs to You and Me
The ask? It's two-fold. The first is that the events' raw footage be released into the public domain. The second is that at least some questions should be chosen "town hall" style, using the Internet...
ARSTECHNICA: Bipartisan coalition: debate footage must be public domain
The letter's signatories are a disparate group seldom found agreeing on much. They include Lawrence Lessig, Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds, Craig Newmark (of the eponymous List), Arianna Huffington (of the eponymous Post), RedState cofounder Mike Krempasky, Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales, MoveOn executive director Eli Parisier, and former Bush/Cheney eCampaign director Patrick Ruffini.
APPSCOUT: Lessig, Bloggers, Activists Call for Open Debates
The authors of the letter would like the ability to let the most popular questions "bubble up" to where they would be used in the debate.

Coincidentally, Google released a tool to do just that on Wednesday: Google Moderator...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Good luck to posters on this blog. They are the side of the good guys - a category that bypasses those hoary conceptions "left" and "right," which should have gone out with "Twenty-three skiddoo."